Alava & Shroff, “Unravelling Church Land”

Alava, Henni and Shroff, Catrine. (2019) “Unravelling Church Land: Transformations in the Relations between Church, State and Community in Uganda.” Development and Change. 50(5): 1288-1309.

Abstract: Christian churches control substantial areas of land in Africa. While intensifying struggles over their holdings are partly due to the increased pressure on land in general, they also reflect transformations in the relations through which churches’ claims to land are legitimized, the increased association of churches with business, and churches’ unique positioning as both institutions and communities. This article presents the trajectory of relations between church, state and community in Uganda from the missionary acquisition of land in the colonial era to the unravelling of church landholding under Museveni. Drawing on long‐term ethnographic fieldwork, the authors argue that claims to church land in contemporary Uganda draw on: 1) notions of belonging to the land; 2) views about the nature of churches as communities; 3) discontent regarding whether customary land owners gave churches user rights or ownership; and 4) assessment of the churches’ success in ensuring that the land works for the common good. The article develops a novel approach to analysing the changing meaning of the landholdings of religious institutions, thus extending ongoing discussions about land, politics, development and religion in Africa.

Engberg, “Walking on the Pages of the Word of God”

Engberg, Aron. 2016. Walking on the Pages of the Word of God: Self, Land, and Text among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem. Doctoral Dissertation, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund, Sweden: Lund University. 

Excerpt: During the last 30 years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text.

Stadler, “Appropriating Jerusalem”

Stadler, Nurit. 2015. Appropriating Jerusalem through Sacred Places: Disputed Land and Female Rituals at the Tombs of Mary and Rachel. Anthropological Quarterly 88(3)

Abstract: Due to deep-seated political tensions and intermittent violence between various streams of the city’s three major religions, Jerusalem’s sacred landscape is in the midst of significant change. One of the most salient expressions of this phenomenon is the renaissance of female saint shrines, most notably the Tomb of Mary and the proximate Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch. At these sites, female symbols, imagery rituals, and materiality have become powerful tools for asserting political claims that pertain to land and belonging. I will take stock of this phenomenon through the lens of different ethno-religious groups in Israel/Palestine that are availing themselves of female symbols (such as fertility, suffering, and maternal care) to advance various objectives. I find that these symbols have charged valences within minority communities. For members of the country’s hegemonic denominations, Rachel is the Jewish people’s “eternal mother” as well as a national symbol of the “return of the exiles” to their homeland. At the same time, local Catholic and Orthodox Christians view Mary to be “the mother of minorities” who suffered on behalf of and continues to provide succor for the weak. As a minority, Christians in Israel/Palestine employ this image of the Virgin as part of their effort to struggle with their weakening grip over the territories. Viewing the Virgin as a protector of minority groups is a departure from the vast majority of the Christian world, where Mary constitutes a national symbol that reinforces social belonging. In sum, I show how, amid the ongoing religious struggle, both female icons and their respective sacred venues are mobilized by different groups for the sake of challenging the political order and reshaping the landscape.

Caterine, “Indian Curses”

Caterine, Darryl V. 2014. Indian Curses, Accursed Indian Lands, and White Christian Sovereignty in America. Nova Religio 18(1): 37-57.

Abstract: Beginning with nineteenth-century Indian curse rhetoric as a national jeremiad, and continuing into the twentieth century through Puritan-derived landscapes in fiction by Howard Philips Lovecraft and Jay Anson, Indian curses and accursed lands stand apart from other paranormal beliefs in the explicit voice they give to Euro-American anxieties over cultural authority. By imagining themselves as living in Indian terrains, accursed though they are, white Americans lay claim to the land, articulating an indigenized myth of national origin. Since the 1970s, neo-charismatic Protestants have taken a keen interest in Lovecraft-inspired religions and Indian curse lore, engaging in various deliverance ministries to exorcise individuals and landscapes, and to symbolically claim the nation for themselves.

Handman, “Mediating Denominational Disputes”

Handman, Courtney. 2012. Mediating Denominational Disputes: Land Claims and the Sound of Christian Critique in the Waria Valley, Papua New Guinea. In Christian Politics in Oceania, eds. Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. London: Berghahn Books.

Ryle, “Burying the Past-Healing the Land”

Ryle, Jacqueline. 2012. Burying the Past-Healing the Land: ritualising reconciliation in Fiji. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):89-111.

Abstract: This article discusses a high-profile traditional reconciliation ceremony staged in Fiji in November 2003. It describes how human agency is reflected in the state of the land and in people’s social relations, past and present; how human agency is seen to spiritually disturb or reconcile the land, its innate ancestral powers and their influence on people’s relations and the land; and how the efficacy of ancestral spirituality of the land may affect change, punishing or rewarding people’s actions. And it discusses how the power of the Holy Spirit can bring about change through exorcising the land of ancestral spiritual power and un-blocking what Pentecostal Christians describe as demonic spiritual strongholds.